FRANK G. FORGIONE SR., 91
Frank G. Forgione Sr., 91, Dies; Pearl Harbor Survivor Led Touring Navy Show Band
Frank G. Forgione Sr., 91, a bandmaster and career musician with the U.S. Navy Show Band, died July 27 of complications from Alzheimer's disease at his home in Miami. He lived in Fort Washington for more than 60 years before moving to Florida in 2006.
He was born Frank George Forgione in Haverhill, Mass. His parents were musicians, and he began his own musical career at age 11 studying with Frank Holt, a percussionist with bandmaster and composer John Philip Sousa. Holt encouraged him to audition for the Navy, and in 1938 he was accepted into the Navy School of Music in the District. His Navy career would last more than 30 years.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Mr. Forgione was stationed at Pearl Harbor and was aboard his ship, the minelayer USS Oglala, when the Japanese attacked. The Oglala sank, but Mr. Forgione managed to make it to a dock. He often said that every day he lived after Dec. 7, 1941, was a gift.
He later served aboard several aircraft carriers before his appointment in 1951 as head of the percussion department in the Navy School of Music. In 1961, he founded the U.S. Navy Special Show Band specifically for a South American Tour. Known as the Goodwill Ambassadors, the band made 12 six-month tours of South America, playing on outdoor stages, in parks and auditoriums and in hospitals and orphanages. The band also played around the world and throughout the United States.
In 1965, the 25-man group encountered anti-American protests. Eggs were hurled at the group in Temuco, Chile, and a woman in Córdoba, Argentina, attacked Mr. Forgione with a handbag and called him an assassin. It wasn't the music they were protesting but American foreign policy.
"The Communists know the goodwill we create for the United States down here, so they try to make it tough for us," Mr. Forgione told The Washington Post in 1965. "But all they accomplish is to make the boys want to play even longer shows and in my opinion, to improve our image at the expense of their own."
Mr. Forgione said he was sure most audiences appreciated the music. "Even when we can feel the strong anti-U.S. sentiment in the crowd, we generally can win them over with music," he said.
He received the Secretary of the Navy's Commendation Medal, the first musician to receive the award since it was given to Sousa. He retired in 1972 with the rank of chief warrant officer.
While touring South America, Mr. Forgione was moved to help relieve the poverty he encountered. For 16 years, he and his fellow band members enlisted a number of national corporations to donate school supplies, first aid equipment, baby formula, vitamins, bolts of cloth and building materials, which they made available to orphanages and other institutions.
In retirement, Mr. Forgione created the Fort Washington Continentals, an award-winning youth drum corps that led Washington's Bicentennial parade. At age 70, he became bandmaster for the New York Military Academy in Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y. The band performed extensively throughout the United States, Europe and Australia. He retired again in 2005.
Survivors include his wife of 52 years, the former Alberta Muzzy of Miami; three children, Frank Forgione Jr. of Miami, Jon Forgione of Prince Frederick and Patricia Turianno of Glen Ridge, N.J.; and four grandchildren.
-- Joe Holley